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Kemp on COVID tour: Take individual responsibility, wear masks in public

Gov. Brian Kemp made a stop in Dalton on his “Wear a Mask” flyover tour Thursday morning. Joined by U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams and Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Kemp urged Georgians to wear masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. He also stressed the importance of flu shots, handwashing and taking personal responsibility for slowing down the virus, particularly ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend.

“Just be responsible. If you’re out on a boat in the middle of the lake with your family or if you’re riding around by yourself in the car, we’re not saying you need to wear a mask. Let’s just be smart and be reasonable. Double down, and let’s get our numbers down,” Kemp said. “What we have to do is take individual responsibility and wear masks when you’re out in public.”

Thursday marked day two of the tour — Kemp and Toomey made stops in Columbus, Albany and Valdosta on Wednesday — and included stops in Augusta and Brunswick as well as Dalton. The tour comes as the state continues to see a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, reporting a record of 3,472 new cases in one day on Thursday.

Gordon County added another 12 positive cases and one hospitalization on Thursday.

Many of the new cases across the state are occurring among those aged 18-35. Adams implored young people to do their part and to follow the advice coming from health officials across the state and locally.

“The average age of people getting COVID-19 right now is 35. It is important for people in [the 18-35 age] group to understand that you are at risk for hospitalization from COVID, and that you are at risk for spreading it to someone who you love and care about,” Adams said.

“The power to slow this virus lies in the hands of the people of Georgia, literally. I want you to understand my surgeon general’s prescription for being safe as we go into this holiday weekend,” Adams continued. “Number one, know your risk. It’s important to know that people who have high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity are at higher risk for this disease. Number two, know your circumstances. Are you going to be going inside or outside? Are you going to a place where it’ll be difficult to social distance? Those two things will give you a better understanding of whether you should go out or not. Number three, know how to keep yourself safe.”

Keeping yourself safe, Adams said, includes washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, using hand sanitizer when handwashing isn’t an option, maintaining social distance whenever possible, wearing face masks to protect yourself and others and staying home when sick or at high risk.

Kemp, also addressing young people, emphasized that slowing the spread of COVID-19 would not just keep people safe, but would also make it possible for life to return to normal.

“They are not going to be sitting in Sanford Stadium or any other football stadium in the fall if people don’t wear their masks now and we don’t drive these numbers down and get rid of this pandemic. That is motivation enough for me, I can assure you, and I think it is for most of our young people too.”

An uptick in the number of cases in the Hispanic population was also a topic of discussion Thursday.

Toomey said she and other healthcare officials, including Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King, the first Hispanic statewide official in state history, are doing everything they can to make information about the virus available to those communities in Spanish. They are also reaching out to trusted voices in those communities, be they church leaders or farmers, to ensure the information is reaching its intended audience.

“The key is a focused communications strategy targeted at young Latinos, healthy Latinos, that reinforces this message in Spanish, in a language they understand. We also want to engage local leaders. They will be key in communicating with these people and these communities,” King said.

Though the push for the public to wear masks was a focus of much of the conversation on Thursday, Kemp said he does not intend to make wearing a mask a statewide mandate.

“I just trust Georgians to do the right thing. I don’t think we need a mandate to do that,” Kemp said. “I’m trusting our citizens.”

Rock Garden continues to welcome guests during pandemic

Tucked quietly behind Calhoun Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Rome Road lies Calhoun’s Rock Garden, well-known among locall for its beautifully detailed, miniature cathedrals and landmarks.

Every structure is carefully crafted from stones, pebbles, shells, rocks, ceramic tiles, glass and other material. The crafter goes by DeWitt Boyd, otherwise known as “Old Dog.” In 2007, he and the Calhoun church formed a Garden Committee.

Boyd found his love for this hobby by creating rock villages for his children as a family game. Today, Old Dog’s children and grandchildren help him to keep up the Rock Garden.

To those of the church, the Rock Garden is a place of prayer. It is evident, to those who stroll throughout the garden, that there is a sense of peace.

“My grandmother used to bring me and my siblings here. I remember her getting emotional the first time we came,” said Calhoun resident Tyler Grantham, who added that he found the Rock Garden to be beautiful and peaceful.

People from all over Gordon County and beyond come to visit the elegant Rock Garden. Visitors continue to be welcomed and encouraged during the worldwide pandemic.

Sarah Ostuw, director of the Gordon County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, has not seen a decrease in visitation since the beginning of COVID-19.

“People are leaning toward outdoor activities more than they were before,” said Ostuw.

The garden is open to the public every day from of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit the Rock Garden’s Facebook page or contact Calhoun Seventh Day Adventist Church at 706-629-5470.

Confederate flags at Resaca cemetery pulled up, arranged to spell 'STOP RACISM'

Dozens of small Confederate flags at the Resaca Confederate Cemetery were pulled from the graves they marked and arranged to spell “STOP RACISM,” a Gordon County Sheriff’s Office deputy discovered Wednesday morning.

Deputy E.L. Kirby was patrolling the area when she happened upon the scene.

Kirby took photos and observed, in addition to the message, flags crossed to form an X and others left on the ground. There was no damage to the property.

Kirby spoke to the caretaker of the property, who said he had not seen anyone there. The deputy then picked up the flags and returned them to each of the headstones.

State of Industry goes online; Chamber event to feature Mannington Mills CEO as keynote

The Gordon County Chamber of Commerce will present a State of Industry Virtual Zoom Webinar at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 24. AdventHealth Gordon is the signature sponsor of the event, which will feature Russell Grizzle, CEO of Mannington Mills, as the keynote speaker. The event is free to chamber members and their guests, but registration for the virtual event will be required.

“We are excited to present this legacy event and profoundly grateful to AdventHealth Gordon for taking the lead as signature sponsor. This will be the chamber’s first major event since COVID-19 compelled the cancellation of our regular calendar and the hospital’s generosity has positioned us for a successful launch as we get back to business. The chamber is ready to start creating our new normal, as are so many of our members and partners,” said Kathy Johnson, president and CEO of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce.

“We are thrilled to have Mr. Russell Grizzle, CEO of Mannington Mills and a widely respected leader in the industrial sector, deliver the keynote,” she continued. “We are eager to hear the message he shares with our members and the business community at large.”

Grizzle joined Mannington in 2010 as Chief Operating Officer and assumed the role of President and CEO two years later. He has spent most of his career in the flooring industry, starting at Milliken & Co. Grizzle is past chairman of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, the Carpet and Rug Institute and Georgia Textile Manufacturers’ Association. He earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and later attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.

Mannington Mills employs approximately 3,600 people in its family of companies at manufacturing sites across the world, in the cities of: Salem, N.J.; Calhoun, Ga.; Dalton, Ga.; Madison, Ga.; San Jose, Calif.; Eustis, Fla.; High Point, N.C.; McAdenville, N.C.; and Coventry, United Kingdom.

The State of Industry event is presented by the Chamber’s Education and Workforce Development Committee, which is led by Chair Chris Tarpley, Shaw Industries; working with Co-Vice-Chairs Jim Dodd, Dodd Machine & Tool Inc.; and Kimberly Fraker, Gordon County Schools. This will be the tenth annual presentation. Education and Workforce Development also presents the Chamber’s annual Golf Tournament, which funds scholarships to high school seniors.

In the last decade, featured speakers have included leaders and executives from the Carpet & Rug Institute, Dalton College of Business, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Kennesaw State University, Mercer University, Mohawk Industries, Pine Hall Brick Company, Shaw Industries Group, and TPA Realty Services.

The State of Industry Event is made possible by a host of sponsors, with AdventHealth Gordon designated as Signature Sponsor. Fox Systems, Mannington Mills, Mohawk Industries, Shaw Industries, Starr-Mathews Agency, and Synovus have come forward as sponsors at the President’s level. The Development Authority of Gordon County, Family Savings Credit Union, Georgia Power, and M&S Logistics are sponsoring at the Engineer’s Level. Gordon County Schools is sponsoring at the Innovator’s Level. A variety of sponsorship opportunities remain available, with four price levels in place and each providing sponsors with promotional value tied to their investment.

The mission of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce is to connect members and the community to promote economic growth.


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By Joanna Aparicio, a student at Gordon Central High School